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Footballing Weekly: Does it make sense for Singapore to rejoin Malaysia Super League?

There is always a clamour to return to the old glory days, but is nostalgia the way to go in improving the state of football?

Singapore's LionsXll player Faris Ramli (right) in action against KL Felda United in their the Malaysian Super League clash in 2013.
Singapore's LionsXll player Faris Ramli (right) in action against KL Felda United in their the Malaysian Super League clash in 2013. (FILE PHOTO: Mohd Fyrol/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Whenever Singapore football is going through a tough period, the age-old suggestion of rejoining the top Malaysian league always crops up among the fans.

It is easy to understand why. The history between the two countries has made the "Causeway Rivalry" a strong allure on both sides of the Johor Strait. Singapore fans love it when their Lions beat the state teams from their bigger neighbours, while Malaysia fans would love nothing more than denying their small neighbours from winning their own league title.

The rivalry certainly has plenty of emotional highs, as fans packed the National Stadiums of both countries to witness fierce clashes back in the 1970s and 1980s. Heroes were made of the footballers who managed to bring glory, while managers were exalted for instilling pride and resilience among the teams.

So it is understandable that there are fans who are nostalgic for such memories, and clamour for Singapore football to return to those treasured times, especially since the domestic Singapore Premier League has not been able to create football stars that draw those 50,000-odd crowds back to the stadiums.

But times have changed. Both Singapore and Malaysia have realised that the best way of developing local football talents is not to constantly battle against each other, but to make sure their domestic leagues are competitive enough for players to hone their skills in.

To go back to having Singapore in the Malaysia league is a short-term solution - the crowds will come back for the team competing in Malaysia, but the domestic league will suffer and ultimately, it is not a solution to uplift Singapore football in the long run.

Case in point: the LionsXII experiment from 2012 to 2015. While the predominantly U-23 squad did well to win the Malaysia Super League title and Malaysia FA Cup during those four seasons, the then S-League suffered in attendance and quality.

Check out the "Footballing Weekly" podcast show as co-hosts Neil Humphreys and Chia Han Keong, as well as guest Haizam Shah, discuss the pros and cons of Singapore sending a team back to the Malaysia Super League.

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